NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

How Did Distributional Preferences Change During the Great Recession?

Raymond Fisman, Pamela Jakiela, Shachar Kariv

NBER Working Paper No. 20146
Issued in May 2014
NBER Program(s):   PE   POL

We compare behavior in experiments measuring distributional preferences during the "Great Recession" to behavior in identical experiments conducted during the preceding economic boom. Subjects are drawn from a diverse pool of students whose socioeconomic composition is largely held constant by the university, mitigating concerns about differential selection across macroeconomic conditions. Subjects exposed to the recession are more selfish and more willing to sacrifice equality to enhance efficiency. Reproducing recessionary conditions inside the laboratory by confronting subjects with losses has the same impact on distributional preferences, bolstering the interpretation that economic circumstances, rather than other factors, are driving our results.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20146

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